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their horses, could keep the animals from falling. The scenery, however, which at every step began to unfold itself, was of a character well fitted to attract attention even from the most careless mind, much more from that of the mighty minstrel who now stood gazing on its confines. It appeared, in fact, as if the chasm opening at his feet, had been effected by some stupendous convulsion of nature, which had riven the rocks asunder to their very base, disclosing at the same time the waters of a torrent, which had rolled and raved along its course for unnumbered ages in darkness and concealment.
Nor while such was the impression which the first view of this singular glen, or rather abyss, conveyed to the mind, were its details, though sometimes blending romantic forms with those of stern and rude sublimity, ineffective in completing the picture; which was, indeed, in all its parts, worthy the pencil of Salvator Rosa, and, what is still higher and more efficient praise, of the genius of him who now contemplated it..
Formidable, in short, as were the jaws or portals of this valley, its savage yet majestic wildness seemed to start forth with additional
features, as our bard pursued its downward course. Here rose cliffs, from whose faces, abrupt and perpendicular, and tinted with every hue which mosses and lichens could supply, were projected huge masses of the purest limestone, so singularly formed by the sportive hand of nature, that being partially covered with a net-work of ivy, they had all the appearance of the towers, buttresses, and mouldings of some ruined but gigantic castle; and further on, and deeper in the dell, and towering several hundred feet in height, were seen rocks whose scathed and naked summits over-browed and darkened the rugged road which lay winding at their feet; whilst, midway from their fractured sides and yawning chinks, grew several aged oaks and mountain ashes, whose fantastic roots and writhed branches, streaming in the air, threw over the whole scene a grotesque yet gloomy grandeur.
Striking, however, as these features were, they became immeasurably enhanced in their effect, both by the peculiar sinuosity of the glen, and by the bold character of the stream which watered its bosom; the former powerfully exciting the imagination, as well by a glimpse of
recesses into which, from the devious direction of the valley, the eye could not penetrate, as by the perpetual shutting-in, and folding, as it were, into each other, of the various precipices, which from the like cause were every where presented to the view; whilst the latter, pouring along its rugged bed, either lashed into fury by obstructing rocks or narrowing straits, or foaming with continual murmur over shelves stretching across its channel, stamped on all around it a character of turbulent yet diversified sublimity.
It was whilst absorbed in the contemplation of this romantic scenery, and whilst visions not less varied and sublime than those which physical nature now offered to his view, were kindling in the mind of Shakspeare, that he was suddenly startled from his reverie by the explosion of a musket or carabine, which echoed, as it immediately was, from numerous faces of the rocks, seemed to fill the valley with dissonance and confusion. Scarcely, indeed, had he time to turn his attention to the spot whence the first report had seemed to issue, when a second and a third were heard in different directions, and presently there appeared to start
from the cliffs and rocks, as if by the creative call of some magician, the forms of armed men, who, after a moment's pause, and whilst shouting to each other in tones of exultation, were seen descending, or rather rushing on all sides towards the travellers, with a rapidity which set at nought the most fearful inequalities of ground.
Against such an attack it was instantly evident all resistance must be vain, and Shakspeare, therefore, whose presence of mind seldom if ever forsook him, prepared to receive the banditti with as much seeming composure and nonchalance as the suddenness and strangeness of the irruption could possibly allow him to collect. Unfortunately, however, his servant, not possessing any similar strength of mind, attempted to escape by flight, and it was not before the discharge of a carabine, whose contents passed close by his person, had brought him to his recollection, that he was again found at his master's side.
The foremost of the banditti had, in the meantime, nearly reached the spot where Shakspeare stood, calling out as they approached him, that
if he offered to move, they would instantly fire, a threat which he answered by composedly sitting down upon the fragment of a rock, at whose base the torrent unceasingly dashed, as it hurried onward with an arrow's speed to shoot from a ledge of limestone into a deep recess or caldron boiling in the depths below.
To the demand which immediately followed for their baggage, their money, and their horses, the astonished poet had scarcely framed a reply, when, at the sound of a bugle-horn, succeeded by a voice of authority and sway, the robbers, who had already begun to rifle their victims, fell back, and a young man, whose attitude and manner were those of command, and whose garb and figure were alike bold and imposing, rushed into the midst of them, denouncing, as he came forward, vengeance against him who had dared, without his orders, to fire upon the strangers. No sooner, however, had he fixed his eyes upon the bard, who was calmly expostulating with his plunderers, than he seemed for a moment rooted to the spot; then, suddenly recollecting himself, he called out to his followers in a tone of mingled astonishment and in